Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writers on Writing: Kate Avery Ellison

Books That Inspired Me: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I was recently inspired by Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, a lyrical, snarky, and laugh-out-loud hilarious book about the trials (and joys) of writing. The title is inspired by some advice Lamott’s father gave her brother as he struggled over a school report on birds. He’d put off the report until the last minute, and when crunch time came he panicked over the size of the project. Their father calmly told him, “Just take it bird by bird.” And that is how Lamott suggests we approach our writing when it threatens to overwhelm us. Bird by bird.

Lamott is like a wise, sassy, self-deprecating friend who puts an arm around your shoulders and tells you tale after tale of her own mishaps before assuring you that it’s all going to be okay—all the great authors have been there and done that, whether it’s jealousy, writer’s block, or a really terrible first draft. “I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money,” Lamott writes. “And not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.”

The book is full of sound writing advice, pithy quotes, and giggle-inducing stories. I didn’t expect to find myself cackling with laughter while reading a book on writing, but Anne Lamott is a very funny woman. Her writing is so full of grace and light too, and when I finished the book I felt like I’d been given a shot of confidence.

As a young and fairly new author, I am slowly learning about myself and my way of breathing life into my stories. Bird by Bird showed me that I’m not alone in my struggles or my joys.

If you read one book about writing this year, let it be Bird by Bird.

 Kate Avery Ellison enjoys tweeting, blogging, and watching TV, and in her spare time she writes fantasy and young adult fiction. Wait, reverse that. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her adorably geeky husband and two spoiled cats.

For more by Kate Avery Ellison, check out The Curse Girl, a twisty, re-imagined version of Beauty and the Beast in a modern-day alternate universe  and Once Upon a Beanstalk, a snark-filled collection of fairy tale mash-ups. You can also visit her at her blog

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